Finally, after facing a stretch of some of the best teams in the Pac-12, the Utah Utes get to play a team that is struggling almost as much as they are.
The Utes (2-5, 0-4), who have lost four games in a row for the first time under eighth-year coach Kyle Whittingham, return home to face California on Saturday at 7:45 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Golden Bears (3-5, 2-3) are coming off a 21-3 loss to Stanford in which they allowed Stanford back Stepfan Taylor to run for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown. They managed just 3 yards themselves on the ground.
Cal quarterback Zach Maynard finished the game 19-for-31 for 214 yards but was sacked four times.
The Bears also fumbled three times with Stanford recovering two of the loose balls.
The Utes can sympathize with such self-inflicted struggles after Saturday’s 21-7 loss to Oregon State.
Utah’s defense played well enough to give the Utes a chance to win their first league game of the year, giving up just 226 yards, but then the Beavers didn’t really need that many yards, thanks to the gifts Utah’s offense gave them.
Quarterback Travis Wilson threw two interceptions and had one of the two fumbles the Utes committed.
Two of those mistakes led to Oregon State touchdowns. The other fumble was committed inside Oregon State’s 5-yard yard line while another first-half drive ended in a failed 43-yard field goal attempt.
“We were able to move the football, but we don’t finish drives,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We move it down the field, miss the field goal. We move it down and fumble the ball in the red zone. We just have to be better finishers, and I think that will come. Travis, even though he had some turnovers, we saw some good things out of him. We just have to keep working.”
That Utah came so close to upending the eighth-ranked team in the country but imploded with mistakes was little consolation for the Utes, who haven’t won since beating BYU on Sept. 15. Their goals of contending for the division title seem far away now.
“It’s not what we anticipated,” defensive lineman Dave Kruger said. “Things happen and adversity is thrown your way. We have to keep our head up and keep grinding and keep working.”
Whittingham said he saw enough positives in Wilson to be encouraged in the freshman’s play despite the game-changing mistakes.
“He is just a freshman, he is a true freshman and there is going to be some growing pains with him,” Whittingham said. “But we think based on two ballgames he has played, he has shown a lot of poise and a lot of confidence and there is some upside to him, a lot of upside to him.”
Whittingham said the Utes needed to help the freshman more.
“It’s easy to nitpick when you lose and find a bunch of things you didn’t do well,” he said. “But the truth of the matter is when you win oftentimes you see the same thing. But certainly Travis had a couple drops in the throw game but overall I think we need to be better finishers and take care of the football.”
Bears’ bumpy ride
A look at Cal’s up-and-down season.
Sept. 1 vs. Nevada • L, 31-24
Sept. 8 vs. SUU • W, 50-31
Sept. 15 at No. 12 Ohio St. • L, 35-28
Sept. 22 at No. 13 USC • L, 27-9
Sept. 29 vs. ASU • L, 27-17
Oct. 6 vs. No. 25 UCLA • W, 43-17
Oct. 13 at Washington St. • W, 31-17
Oct. 20 vs. No. 20 Stanford • L, 21-3